Saturday, August 25, 2007


Hypnotic, San Francisco-based black meddlers Von formed in 1989 and were arguably the United States' first contribution to black metal. With pounding drums, repeated lyrics and minimal guitar playing (save a few lead-motifs here and there), Von inspired many Scandinavian groups--most notably Burzum, whose Varg Vikernes once cited as an influence in an interview, giving Von's name an acronym: Victory, Orgasm, Nazi. This was incorrect, as the name Von was not an acronym at all, although its meaning remains mysterious.

At this point, most of Von's music remains difficult to find. Their only official, non-demo release was the 2003 compilation Satanic Blood Angel (Nuclear War Now Productions). Strangely, the only widely available Von release is a bootleg called Devil Pigs, released by Candlelight, which contains their Satanic Blood demo after Dark Funeral's first release.

Earlier this year, I contacted Von bassist Kill through Peaceville Records, which puts out records by his new group (Abscess), wherein he goes by his real name, Joe Allen. He was kindly enough to grant me an email interview, which he says will be the last Von interview. Portions of this interview were used in a feature I wrote for CMJ.

You’ve said that people didn’t understand black metal back at that time. What kinds of resistance did you get from San Francisco’s mostly thrash-metal audience?
I think people expected to hear something they could thrash to; they wanted more dynamics in the music. We liked the way it sounded in its basic form, and felt by adding anything else would take away from the sound we were after.

Have you found that that non-black/death metal people have started to understand your band?

Why did you play such minimal riffs?
Von’s intent was not to compile riffs. It was mainly to reflect an intense image and pound it into you relentlessly.

What kind of music were you listening to around that time?
Sodom, Voivod, Slayer, Napalm Death, Misfits, Motörhead.

How did that affect Von?
We were into metal, but set out to isolate Von’s sound from any other influences. We never listened to other bands in our studio.

I read that Diamanda Galás was a major influence on Von. How did she affect you?
The Litanies of Satan sounded completely possessed, dark. We liked it.

Your lyrics were often ritualistically Satanic. How serious were you at the time about your message?
It was created in the music, and ended there.

How did you devise your live rituals (blood, candles and all)? Did you base them on anything?
Our stage presence was important to us but was limited with what little time we had to play. Our set lasted about 30 minutes. We made two, seven-foot-tall upside-down crosses to be placed at both sides of the stage, placed red candles at the base of the crosses, we wore stage blood on our faces and body, flooded the stage with fog when possible. The songs were played without much of a break. We would finish a song and immediately go in to the next.

How did you react when you read that Varg Vikernes attached an acronym to your name?
We laughed. We thought no one could have taken that seriously.

What are the origins of the name Von?
Goat created the name, as well as everything else relating to Von. It was accepted with the band and not many questions were asked about it.

What lead to your group’s demise?
I’m sure we each have our own answer to that one. As for me, I think it had mainly to do with the pressure of everyday life. We supported ourselves with the bare minimum. As time went on, it wasn’t enough to keep the band going.

What’s your fondest memory from Von?
Playing live.

What should people remember about Von?
Goat created Von’s sound, Von’s image, and artwork. It was his entity. He will not return to the metal scene for his own reasons, but as the bassist, I am glad to have been a part of it.


For more on Von, and maybe to hear their music, visit, and

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